I say McDonald’s, you immediately think golden arches. I say Nike, you think of that familiar “swoosh.” Those images and the emotional tie we bring to them are the tip of the branding iceberg. A business brand is an undeniably important competitive tool. Just as it is important for a business to develop its own brand, a personal brand can prove to be an invaluable strategic tool in an increasingly competitive marketplace for jobs, promotions and funding.
Personal branding is becoming just as important in business. A positive personal brand creates a consistent, targeted impression that helps you achieve your personal and professional goals. But, it is important to understand that a great personal brand is built on a foundation of authenticity. It cannot be faked, but must always be honest.
When you clearly stand apart and above others competing for the same jobs, for advancement or for supporting an entrepreneurial initiative, you generate interest and are much more likely to land interviews and gain advocates through your personal brand.
Over time, we develop a relationship – good or bad – with a brand. Organizations understand how important it is for that relationship to be a positive one. Anyone who successfully competes in the job market, within a competitive organization, for board positions, or the marketplace of ideas quickly learns the benefits of a positive brand.
So, where do you begin to build your personal brand? A good place to start is with your values, the core principles by which you live. They determine your attitudes, choices and actions: the way you present yourself to the world. This may be the most difficult part of building your brand. It requires focus and introspection. It is a good idea to create a baseline by testing your view of yourself against how the “market” perceives you. Think about the impressions you are making on friends, neighbors, business associates. Ask friends, family and colleagues how they view you. How do they perceive your strengths and weaknesses? Does their view align with what you are promoting as your brand?
Determining the gap between how you want to be perceived and the market’s “image” of you will tell you how much work you need to do to merge your brand with the market’s perception.
So, starting today, you are no longer “you.” You are a brand. How do you position yourself?
Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that distinguish you from others in the job market, on the corporate ladder, pitching new ideas to funding sources. What have you done that makes you stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? What do people say about you when you leave the room? What are your most attractive personal traits?
If the answers to those questions do not support the way you want your brand to be perceived, then you have some work to do.
Here is a way to start according to many marketing strategist who offers five tips for changing how people think about you and building your personal brand:
Building a successful personal brand takes time and constant attention. As you continue to develop your personal brand, stay consistent with your efforts, pay close attention to how the market responds to your content, and hone your direction until your focus is razor sharp. Fortunately, in the digital age there are numerous tools you can utilize:
Constantly find ways to produce value by creating or curating content that is in line with your brand…that positions you as an expert and helps you stand out. You are different, so leverage that difference.
Building a personal brand takes time and effort. But, as successful companies have found, a great brand pays great dividends.
Jan Molino is the CEO & Managing Partner of Aspire Ascend, a service provider and member-based organization, that helps women advance toward leadership. She is an experienced speaker and facilitated numerous forums and panel discussions on this subject. Jan can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.